Tom Margenau | Social security and you: ‘Welfare’ for disabled children with wealthy parents | Lifestyles
Tom Margenau |  Social security and you: ‘Welfare’ for disabled children with wealthy parents |  Lifestyles

Tom Margenau | Social security and you: ‘Welfare’ for disabled children with wealthy parents | Lifestyles

I have a neighbor who’s in his early 50’s. He is a pilot for a major airline and makes pretty good money.

He and his wife have several children, one of whom has Down syndrome.

I’ve heard this 21 year old son raise about $ 2,000 a month in welfare benefits from Social Security.

Do not misunderstand me; I would never swap places with these people.

But I just wonder how rich people qualify for welfare benefits. And I also wonder why this child gets social security when his parents are not even close to the social security age.

ONE: Let me give you the right on a number of points.

First, your neighbor’s son does not receive social security. He is likely to receive a Supplementary Security Income Disability Payment.

Second, he does not receive close to $ 2,000 per. month. It can be as much as $ 840, but is probably closer to about $ 500 in monthly SSI payments.

Our country’s primary safety net for the elderly and disabled with low income is the Supplemental Security Income program.

SSI is administered by the Social Security Administration, but it is not paid for by social security taxes. It is financed by general tax revenue.

But the fact that SSA runs the program, combined with a confusing name that makes people think it’s a supplementary social security payment, makes most people think of SSI as a social security benefit.

I can not stress enough that SSI is NOT part of Social Security.

What SSI does is pay a small monthly scholarship to people over the age of 65 who are poor, and to disabled adults and children who are poor.

While your neighbor’s son was under the age of 18, he would not have been eligible for SSI disability benefits.

This is because the father’s income would have been taken into account and it would have prevented the child from qualifying for what is actually an assistance benefit.

However, when the child reaches the age of 18, it is considered a legal adult. And as such, the parent’s income is no longer taken into account when deciding whether he is eligible for SSI payments.

So provided this 21-year-old young man has no other income and does not have much in the way of assets in his name, he would receive a monthly SSI disability check. The size of the check may vary from one state to another, but it is never much more than about $ 840 per check. month.

And based on my knowledge of the intricacies of the SSI payment structure, my guess is that your neighbor’s son is approaching around $ 500.

I do not intend to weigh too heavily in the argument as to whether middle-class adult children or even wealthy parents should qualify for SSI (ie welfare benefits) – although I am inclined to believe that parents caring for the severely disabled children, should get help from the government.

But I can tell you that many people over the years have objected to these provisions of the law.

And I want to share the true story of one of these (perhaps not so “conscientious”) opponents.

About 30 years ago, I worked at the Social Security office in the largest city in a large western state. It was one of the so-called “red states”.

A certain congressman from that state was as right-wing as a red state conservative could become. He was popular and was repeatedly elected on what was basically an “I want to get the government away from you” platform.

When he mentioned government programs, he spat out the words “distribution” and “welfare” as if he was spitting snake venom out of his mouth. Although I did not agree with his policy, I respected his right to express his views.

Tragically, his 19-year-old son was in a major traffic accident that left him quadriplegic. A few weeks later, one of the congressman’s assistants was sitting at my desk in the Social Security office, asking about any public services that might have been available to the paralyzed young man. I explained that he would probably be eligible for SSI disability benefits. I helped the helper fill out the forms he took with the father to sign. Several months later, the son of this wealthy and very conservative government-bashing congressman received a monthly SSI, or welfare, check from the federal government.

Now I would normally have been fine with that. This man’s family had suffered a crippling tragedy, and I’m sure their medical expenses and other bills piled up.

And I would have guessed that the congressman was very happy that his son not only received a small monthly cash scholarship to help cover the cost of his care, but he also received Medicaid coverage. (SSI benefits come with automatic Medicaid eligibility. Medicaid is our country’s health insurance program for the poor elderly and disabled.)

But the next thing that happened really surprised and disappointed me.

A few months later, the congressman ran for re-election.

Almost everyone in the state knew his son was paralyzed, but no one but me and a few others at the Social Security office knew he was getting SSI and Medicaid.

In other words, he received monthly welfare benefits, and all of his son’s medical bills were collected by the taxpayers.

One could have hoped that the congressman would have “seen the light” and perhaps told the voters about the help his son received and explained how he now understood that sometimes government programs were necessary and were there to help people out in difficult situations.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, he was out there on the campaign trail, expelling his usual rhetoric about government waste and welfare fraud, promising that he would continue the fight to stop the growth of welfare programs and big governments. And guess what? He was re-elected in a landslide!

His policy bothered me a little. But his hypocrisy bothered me a lot!

If you have a question about social security, Tom Margenau has a book with all the answers. It’s called “Social Security – Simple and Smart.” You can find the book on or look for it on Amazon or other bookstores.

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